Not Just ‘Getting Older’ Pains

by Sarah Fedele

At 67 years old, John Young started having pains between his shoulder blades and down his right arm. “I just thought these were more of the random pains that came along with age,” shared John. “But after six months, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t walk a tenth of a mile without it hurting like crazy.”

Physicians ran an EKG, an echocardiogram, and then ordered a catheterization. During his cath procedure, they discovered that his aortic valve needed to be replaced, he required triple bypass surgery, and found that he had an aortic aneurism. Dr. Neal Kon, cardiac surgeon with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, performed John’s open-heart surgery and repaired all the damage.

“Here’s the kicker,” said John. “I went in for surgery on November 25. My birthday was on the 26th and then Thanksgiving was the 27th. I came in 67 years old and came out 68.” Age is definitely a matter of importance for John. He lost his father to a heart attack at just 69 years old. He also lost his mom to heart disease at 81. “I outlived my father, but I need to be focused to keep beating the family history.”

“I didn’t realize I was in such bad shape,” shared John. He participated in the Wake Forest Baptist Cardiac Rehab Program for nearly two years.  “They do a real good job in the cardiac rehab program,” stated John. “Bill, Lisa, Natalie and Beverly taught me how to read food labels and eat healthier. They also got my body tone back up and gave me tips on how to stay in shape.”

Looking at the numbers, John had numerous reasons to recover and stay heart healthy. Forty-nine years happily married to his beautiful wife, Barbara. Two adult sons, Steve and Gene. And especially his four grandchildren, Wyatt, Eli, Mackenzie and Montgomery.

“It’s been four years since my open-heart surgery and I have so much energy now. I can hardly sit still. It keeps Barbara on the move, too,” smiled John. Barbara and John support each other by working on a healthy diet that is low in sodium and meets John’s requirements for type 2 diabetes. They focus on not overindulging and always reading food labels. “Walking 10,000 steps a day is not really that difficult,” shared John. “Just going for walks, mowing the lawn and doing the trimming usually does it.”

In addition to their walks around home, this will be Barbara and John’s fourth year walking in the Winston-Salem Heart & Stroke Walk with the Wake Forest Baptist Health Cardiac Rehab Team. Sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health and MedCost, the Heart & Stroke Walk will take place on Sunday, October 14 at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter at Bailey Park. Fun activities for the whole family begin at 1 p.m. and the one- and two-mile walk begins at 2:30 p.m. For more information or to get involved, visit

Sarah Fedele is the director of marketing and communications for the American Heart Association. For more information, visit


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